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Paying attention to the "who"


Have you ever met someone and felt like their introduction into your life was fate? Even if you haven’t kept in touch with them, did they bless your life in ways you never could have imagined?

Have you been aware of their effect on your life? Or has it taken you years to gain hindsight?

I believe that every person who appears in our lives appears when they’re meant to. After all, we’re here to learn from each other.

I can pinpoint several different people who had a major impact on my life and who continue to do so, even if our paths have parted. I’ll share a few with you (names changed for anonymity).

I met Lyle through a friend on AOL Instant Messenger during my freshman year of high school. We went to school together, but we’d never met in person. He met a severely depressed Karlin who thought that no one cared about her, that no one would ever love her, and that there was no point in being alive. My heart was full of hatred and sadness back then.

Lyle would listen to me when I was in my lowest-of-low state. He’d put up with my abhorrent behaviour and the hateful words I’d sometimes spew, seeing past them, knowing that they were coming from my mental state and not me.

He taught me to never settle and to try new things. He taught me how to be alive. His impact was even more meaningful to me after he passed in 2008. I wrote about Lyle in a past blog post, further outlining his impact on my life.

About a year after Lyle and I became friends, I met Alex. Before Alex, I believed that I would never have a boyfriend and would never be loved. And he never was my boyfriend, but that was okay. Our interactions felt like how I imagined a couple might act, and it gave me hope. He helped me destroy the belief that I would be single forever (which surely allowed me to open my heart for the boy who came into my life a couple years later).

Alex, though he wasn’t aware, also completely changed my life trajectory. I was very unhappy in Seattle and was living in a state of nothingness (though with a bit more purpose after meeting Lyle). We were talking one day about the boarding school he attended and the bells of an epiphany rang in my head: I could escape to boarding school. It wasn’t about him; he wasn’t the reason I wanted to go to this school (though I think he thought he was). Running away was the only way I knew how to deal with my problems at that point, and boarding school was my solution.

Though we didn’t talk much once I arrived at school (or since he graduated), I will always value what Alex gave to me. He gave me a way out and a changed belief. Running away created space for plenty of other issues, and I’ll talk about those another time, but I appreciate how Alex opened my eyes to fresh potential.

Sometimes I try to imagine where I’d be and what I’d be doing if I hadn’t left Seattle in 2006. I’m sure everything would be very different. I also believe that I’d likely end up as a wanderer eventually, much farther down the road.

Then I fall into a spiral--if I hadn’t gone to boarding school, I probably would’ve ended up at a different college. I likely would not have traveled to the countries I’ve been to when I did. I wouldn’t have met the people I have. All of them have affected me one way or another, teaching me about culture and tradition. They have all helped shape me into who I am.

I also probably would not have come to Colorado to work in April 2018. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have met Cait.

Cait and I started out our friendship by scaring the sh*t out of each other (accidentally). When I moved to Colorado for work, I moved into the room next to Cait in our staff housing. I arrived around midnight (unbeknownst to her).

Cait thought I was an axe murderer and didn’t sleep well that night. The next morning, I opened my bedroom door and she was standing outside of her door, staring at my door. My heart leapt out of my chest--which is not an easy feat.

We bonded over our ability to startle one another, but I wasn’t sure who she was, what she was about, and if she’d like me for the first few weeks. I thought she might be someone who was easily angered (I was wrong).

Getting to know Cait has positively affected my life in ways I never would have imagined. She was exactly the person I needed to meet at the time I met her. She’s exactly who I’ve needed in my life this summer as I’ve been dealing with various issues.

She is one of the hardest people to offend that I’ve ever known.

When I react poorly to something that has happened or been said, instead of being pissed at me for reacting poorly, she forgives me instantly, knowing that my reaction is just that--a reaction. She knows that I’ll realize that I was wrong and will apologize. She’s also very open to communicating about what happened.

I also feel like she doesn’t judge me.

That’s not to say she isn’t judgmental. She’s human, therefore she judges. But she doesn’t hold onto those judgments. She’s open to having her mind changed. She’s open to people surprising her.

She also doesn’t let her frustrations rule her life. There are times when she gets angry, and you know she’s angry, but she doesn’t treat other people poorly when she’s in a bad mood. She rarely lets her work ethic suffer; she allows herself to feel what she’s feeling and leave it at that.

Again, she’s human and therefore she’s not perfect, but she’s taught me many important lessons that I needed to learn in the three months I’ve known her.

I admire Cait’s ability to separate her mood from her interactions and her work. She’s been a shining example for me, and I believe her influence has been huge in helping me overcome my shortcomings in the same area. The win I talked about last week? I have no doubt in my mind that being around Cait helped me be able to let go of the stresses of the job.

I’ve joked to my boss that she keeps me sane at work, but it’s really true--when I’m frustrated, annoyed, tired, or down, all I have to do is look at Cait and make a face or roll my eyes and I can feel her empathy. I feel less alone, and it lessens the burden of whatever I’m dealing with.

I’m grateful for her friendship. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to recognize all the good she’s given to me as our friendship grows, rather than realizing it years down the road.

Not only has Cait motivated me to work on changing my moods instead of brooding in them and causing suffering, she has helped me realize that I’d like to leave positive memories with people instead of negative ones.

I know I’ve left both in the past.

I also know and acknowledge that I have no control over how others will react to me or my words and actions. I won’t stress over the things I can’t control, and I’ll do my best to be a positive and loving person.

I also won’t beat myself up if I have times when I’m unloving or negative. It’s part of the growing process, and the more I learn, the better I’ll get at not allowing other people’s actions or my moods to affect those around me. I’m going to be patient.

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Do you have goals? Are your goals focused on personal development or changing others? Are you aware of how you treat others? Do people laugh at your jokes because you’re funny or because they work for you (or are scared of you)? Do you treat people as well as you can, or could you be better? Do you blame others’ for your moods or your situations? Do you let negativity rule your life, or do you look for explanations outside of the worst-case scenario? How do you run your life?

I encourage you to think about these questions! I know I have (and do). Feel free to also share them with me by email (karlin@thewanderingswami.com) or in a comment on this post (available on desktop only).

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